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Kenya's indigenous radio stations and their use of metaphors in the 2007 election violence

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The article focuses on the use of metaphors during the 2007 pre- and post-election violence in Kenya that left at least 1400 people dead and more than 350,000 internally displaced. During and after the violence, vernacular radio stations, though not entirely responsible for the violence, were highly chastised for constructing and disseminating narratives of hate, using embellished metaphors.

This article acknowledges the presence of these metaphors and the ethnicized stereotypical humour they provided before the election. But it is the political tension that provided the context for the deployment of metaphors in a way that framed their meaning and potency of use. Whether these metaphors contributed to fanning ethnic passion cannot be quantitatively assessed. However, their potency was not in themselves, but in the meaning imbued in them; which was as fluid and transient as the context changed. Metaphors, therefore, became substitutes for past ethnic grievances. They served as a rallying cry and a call to arms, not because of the totality of what can be inferred from them, both positive and negative, but their signification of the aspects of difference. It is this difference, which was exploited during the election violence, not because of the metaphors but in spite of them. With the background of the political tension that suffocated the country, metaphors became materials to propagate ethnic identities and a basis for ethnic nomenclature.
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Keywords: Kenya; election violence; ethnicity; indigenous radio stations; information warfare; metaphors

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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  • The Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) is an interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for debate on the historical and contemporary aspects of media and communication in Africa.
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